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Session 2003

Session 2003



SESSION UPDATE
Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office promising to drive change "in a hundred places and a thousand ways." He may have underestimated his reach. At session's end, five months into office, the young governor finds himself with much - most - of an aggressive reform agenda becoming law.

Among his victories were wins on plans to change welfare, to establish tax-free industrial zones, to rewrite classroom graduation standards and to close a yawning deficit without raising state taxes.

Under Pawlenty, gun permits will be more accessible and abortions will be somewhat less accessible. Bar hours will be later, but there will be extra troopers on the road when they let out, and schools will be required to lead most students in the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week.

His reach stretched from southwestern Minnesota's wind-rich fields, which will see more energy-producing turbines, to the Iron Range, which has a good chance for seeing a new coal plant and new tax-free zones.

The question presents itself, though: With a reach so vast, did he overreach? As Democrats adjourned their special session on Thursday, they were convinced he did.

Last month, the Minnesota Legislature erased a $4.2 billion projected deficit with a mix of spending cuts, one-time money and payment shifts. The three major Wall Street rating agencies have now rendered their verdict on the budget fix; one agency downgraded Minnesota's credit rating, while the other two said Minnesota still deserves to hold the top rating. State budget experts say Minnesota is among the majority of states reluctant to raise taxes to balance the budget. (06/17/2003)
Minnesota has lost its top credit rating from one of three Wall Street bond houses. Moody's Investors Services Monday knocked the state's rating down a notch from Aaa to Aa1. The change means it will likely cost more for the state to borrow money. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson is critical of how Gov. Pawlenty is handling the state's finances, and says the downgrade sends a bad signal about financial management. Carlson talked with <i>Morning Edition</i> host Cathy Wurzer. (06/17/2003)
Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty joins host Gary Eichten in the MPR studios to discuss current events. Pawlenty plans to lead a three-day trade mission to Canada in late September. The trip to Montreal will focus on the bioscience and medical industries. We discuss this trip, and other issues facing Minnesota and the nation. ( 06/16/2003)
Gov. Pawlenty has signed a $237 million bonding bill into law. The bill authorizes the state to borrow for construction projects, including buildings at state colleges and universities and flood relief in northwestern Minnesota. The largest single item in the bill is $25 million for a new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Guthrie officials say the theater's inclusion in the bonding bill ends a lengthy lobbying effort. (06/12/2003)
After sitting out this year's legislative session, three Minnesota sports teams seeking new stadiums are gearing up to make their cases in 2004. Representatives of the Metrodome's three tenants - the Twins, Vikings and Gophers - indicated Wednesday that they will be at the Capitol next year in pursuit of new homes. None sounded interested in sharing space, though, meaning lawmakers might hear pitches for three new stadiums. (06/11/2003)
Sen. Mark Dayton discusses issues facing Minnesota and the nation. ( 06/11/2003)
A last-minute infusion of money will allow the Minnesota Gang Strike Force to remain intact through another year after the Legislature grabbed most of its budget to help balance the state budget. Attorney General Mike Hatch announced that his office was providing $135,000 to help the strike force stay afloat. Created in 1997, the strike force brings together officers from across the state to work as one unit in fighting gang crime. What is the future of the strike force, and predicted summer gang activity in Minnesota? ( 06/11/2003)
About 4,700 Minnesota families with disabled children have until July 1 to decide whether to continue participating in a state-sponsored supplemental insurance plan. The Department of Human Services is sending letters to families notifying them that rates could go up to 1,000 percent higher as a result of state budget cuts. Proponents of the new law say the fees are based on a family's ability to pay. But several families say they can't afford the increase. (06/10/2003)
As summer vacation begins, we discuss the changing education standards and priorities. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said the new education bill contains seeds of reform for Minnesota's public schools. Pawlenty says schools and parents must be held accountable to meet new federal and state education standards. ( 06/09/2003)
Starting in July, child care will become more expensive for thousands of Minnesota families. To help balance the state budget, lawmakers approved cuts in state child care subsidies. Overall the changes are projected to save the state more than $86 million over the next two years. But the cuts may have a secondary effect: Driving some lower-income, working families onto the welfare rolls. (06/09/2003)
Nearly everyone agrees that traffic congestion in the Twin Cities is getting worse. Projections show the population is going to keep growing, and policy makers haven't been able to agree on a long-term transportation funding plan. Cars, buses, roads, LRT, commuter rail; Can we solve this problem, or is Minnesota facing gridlock? ( 06/05/2003)
Cities on the Iron Range say they're getting a double dose of cuts from the Legislature, just when the Range is facing more mine closures. But the Pawlenty administration says the Iron Range has been getting more aid than it deserves for years. (06/05/2003)
City leaders across Minnesota are preparing to tighten their fiscal belts. DFL lawmakers say the newly-passed state budget means cities, mostly in greater Minnesota, will see a 25 percent average cut in state aid payments. Some say the cuts will result in fewer services and higher property taxes. Officials in Bemidji are hoping to avoid cuts to essential services like police and fire protection. (06/04/2003)
The 2003 legislative session gave Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his fellow Republicans just about everything they wanted. DFL state Senator Dean Johnson of Willmar, a former Republican, says his party must focus its message and bring it home to Minnesotans. Republican gains in the 2002 election, and success in the 2003 legislative session--is it a trend or a blip in Minnesota politics and policy? ( 06/04/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the state budget can absorb a minor downturn in the economy but not another major drop. Speaking in Minneapolis, Pawlenty said the budget that passed the Legislature builds up a reserve of more than $500 million, so if there's a &quot;minor hiccup&quot; the state should be able to deal with it. But if the economy tumbles badly, Pawlenty says state officials will have to re-evaluate all their options. Listen to Pawlenty's wide-ranging discussion at a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists. (06/04/2003)

Audio Highlights

Pawlenty's session postscript (6/4/03)
The governor discusses the budget and the session during a speech to the Society of Professional Journalists' meeting in Minneapolis
Political scientist Larry Jacobs (5/30/03)
Provides a review of the 2003 session.
Sen. John Hottinger (5/30/03)
Senate majority leader summarizes the session
Sen. Dick Day (5/30/03)
Senate minority leader summarizes the session
The human services budget
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services and Corrections Budget Division; and Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester, chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee (5/16/03)
The view from former governors (5/13/03)
Former governors Arne Carlson, Wendell Anderson, Elmer L. Andersen and Al Quie give free advice to Gov. Pawlenty
Political scientist Larry Jacobs (5/5/03)
A look at recent polls
Pawlenty's budget message (2/18/03)
Issues budget in attempt to close deficit
Gov. Pawlenty announces "unallotment" cuts Takes action after legislators fail to make a deal (2/7/03)
Gov. Pawlenty's State of the State address (2/6/03)
Pawlenty outlines his vision for Minnesota.
Gov. Pawlenty inaugural address (1/6/03)